Lake and river kayaking guide

There really is nothing better than messing around in boats. Landscapes look very different at this level. Even the most boring river is made more exciting by overhanging branches and willows that form curtains of leaves across your path. Reeds reach up high above your head on either side and damselflies flit around your face as you look for a way through the foliage to follow the wild path of the water.
Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.
– The Wind in the Willows
Without the wider view from above, however, there’s a risk of feeling a little lost on your own. That’s why booking a tour with local guides, who know the waterways by heart, is the best way of seeing the bigger picture. Lake and river kayaking trips can be very varied – but what they all share are passionate, knowledgeable guides with the expertise to quickly get you paddling and provide you with a unique perspective of a place. Keep reading our lake and river kayaking guide to find out more.

Is lake or river kayaking for you?

Do go on a lake or river kayaking vacation if…

…you like to see things from a new perspective. Your river or lake-level position is ideal for viewing the variety of fish and birdlife, and kayaking opens a door to otherwise unseen local culture too. …you like to get close to nature. From falling in the water (although not essential) to wild camping, kayaking isn’t a spectator sport. …you’re into conservation. Sadly, most rivers are at threat from pollution and development. As kayakers tend to be passionate defenders of their natural playground, they’re great for learning about local landscapes and wildlife

Don’t  go on a lake or river kayaking vacation if….

…you want to see a lot in a short space of time. This isn’t a sprint; kayak touring is all about slow travel and getting to know a small area intimately. …you’re looking for a relaxing vacation. Kayakers will talk about the peace and tranquility of being out on the open water – but don’t forget, even though you’ve got your feet up, your arms will be getting a good workout. …you like to keep to yourself. Kayaking is best done as a group activity, where everyone looks out for each other and you will come away having made some new friends on your tour.

Our top Lake and river kayaking Vacation

Douro valley by kayak vacation, across Portugal

Douro valley by kayak vacation, across Portugal

Kayak across Portugal on the Douro River

From 3370 10 days ex flights
Tailor made:
This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Lake and river kayaking or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

What does a lake or river kayaking vacation entail?

There are many different ways to get out on the water. You could be using a sea kayak to cruise down rivers, splashing about in an open top kayak, or exploring a lake with an inflatable and a tent. You could take the kids away on a family-friendly canoeing vacation or discover the thrill of white water kayaking.

“The boats you use are actually very important depending on what you’re going to be doing. If you get the wrong kind of boat it could completely ruin the experience,” explains Ben Heywood, co-founder of our adventure travel specialists Undiscovered Montenegro. “We’re very careful to make sure that the boats we have are suitable for the purpose they’re being used for.”

It’s one of many reasons why you should choose a kayaking vacation that’s organised by trained and qualified leaders. Some will tailor your tour to your exact specifications, others offer small, friendly group tours with a good ratio of guides to paddlers. Many trips are open to all levels, including novices – something you may want to bear in mind if you’re more experienced. But, as with any adventure vacation, a minimum level of fitness is often required and groups are usually arranged depending on ability.

Best time to go

The best time to go on a lake or river kayaking vacation can often depend on where you want to go and how leisurely you want your trip to be. River paddling in particular is dependent on the weather – wet autumns and winters in Europe mean higher water levels, faster flows and bigger rapids that you might want for white water kayaking.
For more relaxed river paddling, like a family canoeing vacation in the Dordogne or multi-day tours in Montenegro or Croatia, you’ll find the warm summer months are best. Similarly, if you want to go somewhere a little further afield, like India or Madagascar, the warmer winter weather (and water) is best for multi-day paddle expeditions.
Written by Bryony Cottam
Photo credits: [Page banner: Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington] [Topbox: Filip Mroz] [Go if: Ali Kazal] [Best time to go: Jens Peter Olesen]